UrbanThings @ SwiftSummit 2016

Firsts – SwiftSummit 2016 – Uber – AirBnb

UrbanThings Head of Mobile, Mark Woollard, headed to San Francisco to discover cutting-edge solutions using the Swift Programming language. He shares the highs and lows of his experience – and how a conversation over pastries brought him face-to-face with a coding idol.



A few months ago, I was offered the chance to attend this year’s SwiftSummit in San Francisco and, after some consideration, decided that getting on for 24 hours travelling time from and back to the UK was worth the experience of joining the premier annual conference for the Swift programming language.

So, to my other firsts, as someone who lives outside London and gets around using my own car and uses train / tube / hire cycles in London I’d yet to try out Uber. I decided I should find out what it’s all about and use it for appropriate legs of the trip.

I’d also yet to use AirBnb so, in an effort to discover some of these disruptive services, booked accommodation in San Francisco with a certain ‘Trish’ via AirBnb having checked out type of accommodation, reviews, location and price.

More on these at the end, but let’s turn to the conference itself…

The Palace of Fine Art, San Francisco - Home of SwiftSummit 2016
The Palace of Fine Art, San Francisco
– Home of SwiftSummit 2016

The conference venue was the stunning Palace of Fine Art. I checked in, picked up my name tag and made full use of the complementary pastries and coffee. I found myself speaking with another attendee who turned out to be Ray Wenderlich (@rwenderlich) who runs a well-known coding tutorials site. So I concluded there should be some interesting people to converse with during the two days.

I put together summaries of the talks that I found the most interesting, but be sure to check out the full program on swiftsummit.com.  I attended and took something away from each and every talk, and the SwiftSummit team did a fantastic job of organising an informative event.


Contributing to the Swift compiler – Ayaka Nonaka (Workflow)

Ayaka (@ayanonagon) gave an entertaining presentation about how she ended up contributing a bug fix to the Swift compiler, really showing the advantages of its open-source model. In face, I took a look at it when it first went public but hadn’t contributed any tweaks. The talk rekindled an interest to be part of the project and, since the conference, I have started that process having setup a Linux system. I caught what seemed a straightforward issue with the Linux Foundation implementation, but I’ve now ended up tracing this through to something more significant with the compiler and exception handling on Linux. Info has been fed back to JIRA and the investigation continues!


Case study: Swift with ~ 150 engineers – Tuomas Artman (Uber)

Tuomas (@artman) gave us an insight into what it like running a large developer team within Uber, and how they went about migrating their existing Obj-C codebase to a completely new architecture written in Swift. He mentioned that Swift was better suited to meet the company’s future plans and that the move was undoubtedly a worthwhile investment. He also talked about some of the problems they encountered along the way. It’s worth stating that the re-written app went live a few days before the conference and it’s safe to say that it got me around San Francisco with no issues at all.


“Clearly we developers have a lot to learn about imparting knowledge to our peers!”


Clear as a Bell: Sharing Technical Expertise – Laura Savino (Freelance)

This talk had little to do with Swift but was very thought provoking nonetheless. Laura (@savinola) was a teacher who moved into development. Having asked her husband to teach her programming he gave her a copy of K&R C Programming to read. Clearly we developers have a lot to learn about imparting knowledge to our peers. The talk gave a lot of tips about how we can improve in this area and, again, some great ideas to take on board.


A Quantitive Look at Swift – Christopher Scott [BuddyBuild]

Christopher(@chrisYVR) presented a talk on the BuddyBuild cloud hosted CI system outlining what the service offered and of particular interest some insight to current iOS developer practices based on analysis of projects hosted in BuddyBuild. It was interesting data to see how many iOS projects include watch apps or extensions, even how many developers bother to setup any unit/UI testing amongst other data points.



Overall I really enjoyed the summit and in particular liked the format with speakers and delegates really being treated as one with lots of time to interact and discuss further the ideas put forward in the sessions. I would certainly would be interested in attending future summits and I would recommend it to anyone interested in Swift! Many of the contributors have github projects with code examples and I’d encourage you to search them out.

As to my experience with Uber and AirBnb, the new Uber app worked flawlessly and I am now a convert to the service. The AirBnb provided accommodation met my needs perfectly as well, although I would say whilst their web portal works perfectly, their app could do with a bit more thought. This won’t stop me considering AirBnb in the future for accommodation though.